As much as Orange would like to revel in a road victory, next week now looms larger than ever. The Panthers won’t dwell on Friday’s 20-6 win against Cardinal Gibbons for long.
Just like last year, a showdown with fellow undefeated team Southern Durham awaits in next week’s regular season finale with a Big Eight 3A Conference title in the balance.
“I guess it’s already over,” Orange coach Pat Moser said. “It’s time for us to start getting ready. We’ll enjoy this for the evening.”
Orange is 22-2 over the last two seasons and both losses came last year against the No. 1-ranked 3AA state champs, who have won 23 straight.
Never miss a local story.
“We’re going to enjoy it and look ahead at the same time. But that game next week – that’s the one we want and it’s the one we’re going to get. We’re all business from here until next Friday,” quarterback Grant Cloer said.
Orange (10-0, 6-0), ranked No. 5 statewide in 3A and No. 3 in The N&O area, clamped down on thespread offense of Cardinal Gibbons (6-4, 3-3).
The Crusaders managed 168 yards of total offense (22 rushing, 146 passing), but more importantly for Orange, Gibbons got four drives into the red zone but came away with just six points.
“We played the bend-but-don’t break (defense). They were able to move the ball,” Moser said.
Orange led 14-3 at halftime despite two sparkling touchdown runs from Tay Jones getting called back for penalties.
The Panthers got on the board with a 10-yard run from 250-pound fullback Michael Bolden and a 31-yard connection from Cloer to Eryk Brandon-Dean.
Jones tacked on a 3-yard run in the third quarter but left the game on crutches.
“He’s getting X-rayed right now. That left foot is bothering him. It’s not his ankle, it’s down below his toe. We’re hoping he’s OK,” Moser said.
Louis Di Filipo put Cardinal Gibbons up first with a 43-yard field goal after the game’s first drive. He added a 32-yarder in the third quarter.
The Crusaders are likely in the playoffs but have lost three of their last four going into next week’s game at Northwood (8-2, 3-3).
“Our defense was outstanding tonight. Our offense, we just couldn’t finish a couple of drives and that was the difference in the football game,” Gibbons coach Steven Wright said.